The young man walks slowly along the path through the park, his head down and his stance protective. Gently rising up the hill through the weeping willows, he pauses halfway to stare up into the sky. He seems to watch the sun for a moment before continuing, his head down once more and his face peaceful and relaxed. He walks like someone deep in thought yet without a single worry.
A minute later he has reached the top where a few wooden benches sit facing the view of the city. He walks straight past the benches where he stops and sits on the grass, his knees pulled up close and his eyes slipping shut. It appears that he has come a long way, and he lets out a long breath somewhere between peace and sorrow. His form seems so small and lonely on the bare hilltop.
A few minutes pass, and then he lies down, letting his back lay over the rough gravel of the path, and his legs stretching down into the long green grass. He lies this way for some time, perhaps he is looking at the sky, or perhaps he is merely lost in a dream.
Finally, he stands and moves down the far side of the hill, just as slow and graceful in his movements as during his ascent.
He follows the path along the waterfront until he reaches a small cafe where the smell of fish and chips mingles with that of the ocean and the sound of pleasant chattering can be heard rising and falling to the radio boombox of a few beach combers. A bell rings happily as a couple pushes out of the front door, their loose bodies moving with their laughs and their hands casually clasped.
The young man moves quickly and gets a hand on the door before it swings shut. Then he stands in the darkness, his eyes staring at a potted plant that sits beside the waiting bench. A waitress comes to see him and asks him how many.
"Two," he says though he is evidentally alone.
The waitress smiles and says, "Follow me."
He follows her, one step behind her at all times, his head up and his eyes narrowed. "Right here," she says.
He bumps softly into the table and then turns. "Thank you," he says.
The waitress gives a funny smile, an odd feeling coming over her as she watches the soft grace of the young man. She nods with searching eyes and then leaves, turning to give him one more look before she is swept up by another arriving couple. Only after she is engaged with the new couple, does the young man move around the circular table to the chair. He sits down but does not look at the menu.
Instead, he moves his hand slowly to the glass of water that sits before him. He takes a long, slow drink, and then links his fingers together and looks out the window.
For several minutes, he takes in the fragrant smells that come from the kitchen, the bubbly laughter from the woman across the way, and the whispering of the couple behind him. He has not touched the menu by the time the waitress returns.
"Are you still waiting for someone?" she asks.
The young man smiles. "No. I think they've changed their mind."
The waitress doesn't know what to say. "Oh..." she says, "I'm sorry."
The young man does not look at her. He's staring straight across the table at the empty chair. "I'll have the trout special," he says.
The waitress is taken off guard for a moment, and then she says, "Right. Of course. You mean the honey browned trout?"
"That's the one," the young man says.
"Of course. And to drink?"
"You have lemonade?" he asks.
The waitress nods, and then as an afterthought: "Alcoholic or not?" She is having trouble aging the young man, and in her peculiar attraction to him, she decides to try for a few hints.
The young man smiles. "I do not drink," he says. "Lemonade will be fine."
The young woman was not expecting this answer, but she takes it to mean that he is old enough to drink but choses not to. She nods her head and slips away.
The young man continue to wait, as patient as ever for his meal. Again, he seems so lonely, sitting at a table by the window, across from an empty seat, and surrounded by happy strangers.
As the waitress does her rounds, she finds herself looking his way more often than she should. She hopes he will not catch her watching. He seems not to notice.
By the time his trout is ready, her heart is pounding because she wants to talk to him but isn't prepared. She approaches the table with the plate carefully balanced, her skirt drifting back and forth as her hips swing between the crowded tables and chairs.
She arrives, setting the plate down with a soft noise that was meant to be a few words. He smiles and thanks her. She hangs around, unsure of what to say, but knowing she has to say something. Though she is standing beside his table fighting for words, he seems comfortable and amiable.
"The person who was supposed to show up...were they a friend?"
He smiles as if to himself. "I do not know," he says. "They could have been, or they could have not. I am afraid I shall never find out."
The girl makes a sound as she tries to speak. She turns it into a compassionate hum, and then bites her lip. She tries to pull herself together to ask another question, but he speaks.
"Are you lonely?" he asks.
Her eyes widen. What a thing to ask, she thinks. But she is rather excited that he seems to take conversation in a more meaningful way. "I..." she hesitates. "No, not really. But I have been. I used to be awfly shy."
"Well, I am not shy," he says. "I cannot afford to be."
She doesn't know how to take this, but looking over her shoulder to judge how the restraunt is running, she sits down opposite him. She tries to make eye contact but he looks away.
"I'm sorry, I was just curious," she murmurs. Truly though, she has no idea why she has sat down at his table. Something about his humble confidence tugs on her interest.
He merely smiles. "No, thank you for being such a friendly person."
Her heart does a sumersault and she feels a compassion for this peaceful, soft-spoken man. "Are you lonely?" she asks.
"Yes," he responds. "But not in an injured sort of way. I am my own companion. I have been all my life."
She admires his courage, and so gaining some of her own courage, she says, "Well, you seem to be an interesting guy. Why should you be so alone?"
He smiles to himself. "Once people get to know me, they discover something about me. And then they make other plans."
The girl feels very odd about this strange claim, but her curiosity is pounding in her head, and her discomfort can do nothing to sway her. "What could it possibly be?" she asks.
"It is funny that you cannot tell," he says, laughing.
A peculiar smile moves across her face as she watches him laugh. This is one of the oddest moment she has ever experienced. "Why is it funny?"
"Well, all my life people have told me that I cannot be just like everyone else. They tell me I am different and have to get used to it. So, what do I do? I get used to it. But then, I get so used to it and so good at living with it, that I can hide it so well that no one even notices. Then they think that I am just like everyone else."
"Well, sure you are," she says.
"No," he laughs, "I am not."
"Well what makes you so different?"
The young man puts a hand to his laughing face.
"I am blind," he says.